Testing Argus Surveillance VMS
In this test, we examine Argus Surveillance's VMS, an offering that provides licensing for unlimited numbers of cameras and servers for less than $1000 and for 16 cameras at less than $200. Can a price so low be for real? What tradeoffs and issues will you face?
This test was conducted on a Windows 7, 64 bit machine, integrating a range of cameras including the Axis Q1755, D-Link DCS-920 TRENDnet TV-IP110.
While some of the provided functionalities were impressive and similar to much more expensive solutions, a complete lack of support raised concerns over how dependable and for how long could one depend on this system for their surveillance. This may be attractive for someone really looking to save up-front but could result in expensive problems or issues down the line.
When evaluating Argus Suveillance DVR Software, the following 10 key criteria / decision points should be considered.
|Pricing||Strong||Less than $200 for 16 channels; Less than $1000 for unlimited cameras running on unlimited servers
|Simplicity||Moderate||Setup is fragmented amongst various menus / sub-menus|
|3rd Party IP Camera Support||Moderately Weak||Moderate support but limited for newer cameras|
|H.264 Support||None||Not supported|
|Analytics Support||Weak||Detects faces, provides search, no support documentation|
|Remote Monitoring||Strong||Live monitoring, investigations & administration all available|
|Run as a Service||Moderate||
Is not enabled by default, simple to configure via checkbox
Includes visual thumbnails on timeline
We cannot get hold of the company by any means
Technical Support: Technical support appears to be non-existent. We received no reply to our numerous requests for technical support via their website over a span of a month. No phone number is provided on Argus's website.
Face Detection: We were able to capture faces but the subject needed to be in a very narrow field of view (less than 5 feet wide) and the lighting needed to be even. At slight angles (tilting one's head away from the camera) or with modest shadows, face catpure was infrequent. No supporting documentation was provided for face detection. It is possible that some setting(s) exist to improve this but with the limitations noted, this was the best results we could achive.
Setup: Generally setup is simple and straightforward; however, the fragmented interface can cause some confusion. For example, numerous menus and sub-menus must be accessed to completely configure a camera for recording (event monitoring, frame rate, schedules, etc.). Potential for error during setup is increased because related configurations are not grouped together within a single page or 'workspace'.
Live Monitoring / Investigations: Live monitoring is easy even for non-technical users. Primary camera controls and thumbnails representing cameras feeds are displayed on-screen. Untrained users can select controls or select thumbnails to view or control video.
Investigations, excluding the export process, provides useful options that are simple to use. For example, visual thumbnails are displayed on the timeline and motion search and even multi-camera synchronized playback is provided. However, the exporting workflow is awkward, requiring the investigator to redo the same search before initiating export. This may cause problems or prevent a novice user from exporting video.
- Full featured remote access (live monitoring, investigations and administration)
- Expanded user permission settings (including individual camera permissions)
- Various search capabilities
- Numerous storage features
- Multi-camera playback with visual thumbnails
Computing Platform Support
Argus Surveillance DVR supports Windows 2000, XP, 2003 or Vista 32 bit. The software is downloadable from their website [link no longer available], which provides the local client and remote functionality. A white paper available on their website [link no longer available] provides further details.
Third Party Support
No documentation is available via the website to provide reference. From the driver list, however, we can provide some insight and examples on availability. Examples of camera include (but not limited to):
- Axis generic drivers
- IQInvision (older model lines)
- Linksys generic drivers
- Panasonic generic drivers + some limited models
- Sony generic drivers + some limited models
The list of supported cameras appear to be somewhat broad but outdated. Although we did test the Axis Q1755, this was done using the generic MJPEG mode. The availability of generic drivers can alleviate some 'lock-in' potential with specific cameras as we've seen with various VMS offerings.
Argus sells its software on-line direct to users. It lists the following pricing/package options [link no longer available]:
- 4 cameras max, single computer - $89.00
- 8 cameras max, single computer - $118.00
- 16 cameras max, single computer - $198.00
- 32 cameras max, single computer - $338.00
- unlimited cameras, single computer - $488.00
- Site Licenese: unlimited cameras, up to 20 computers - $870.000
- World Wide License: unlimited cameras, up to 100 computers - $990.00
We believe that the computer reference means that a given number of servers can be used with full capabilities. Using the World Wide License as an example, this would mean that 100 systems can be used to record video. This results in a $10 per 'site' cost and can actually be quite an attractive offering; however, without response from Argus, we cannot verify accuracy of this statement.
Potential customers should note that the lack of response from Argus in combination of the outdated camera support raises a red flag. It should be made aware that although the system can be one of the most inexpensive at this end of the market, comes with a risk - lacking basic support for the product.
The following screencast examines usability highlights of Argus' VMS system. Key points include:
- No response from technical support (00:16 min)
- No supporting documentation for face detection analytics (01:13 min)
- Administration is fragmented (03:10 min)
- Visual thumbnails are helpful for investigations (05:23 min)
- Odd exporting workflow (06:25 min)
- Useful account permission (07:33 min)
- Full remote capabilities via the web interface (08:45 min)
The following screencast examines how to configure/setup Argus' VMS system. Key points include:
- Single executable (00:13 min)
- Using the camera discovery tool (01:14 min)
- Enabling event monitoring and schedules (02:41 min)
- Assigning camera level permissions (04:20 min)
- Full-featured remote web interface (05:11 min)
Live Monitoring & Investigations
The following screencast examines live video monitoring with Argus' VMS system. Key points include:
- Single client for both live and investigations (00:14 min)
- Monitoring cameras (01:22 min)
- Visual thumbnails provided for investigations (02:54 min)
- Working with the exporting workflow (04:10 min)
- Full-featured remote web interface (05:41 min)